Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Antonio Beato

"The Sphinx and Pyramid of Khafre"

"Nubie", ca. 1880's

"Forecourt, Temple of Horus"

"Karnak, Interior"

"Pyramid at Saqqara"

"View of the Aswan Along the Nile"

ca. 1870

"Arab Children"

"Egyptian Woman"

"Water Carriers", ca. 1864

Biography from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Antonio Beato (after 1832 - 1906), also known as Antoine Beato, was a British and Italian photographer. He is noted for his genre works, portraits, views of the architecture and landscapes of Egypt and the other locations in the Mediterranean region. He was the younger brother of photographer Felice Beato (1832 - 1909), with whom he sometimes worked.

Little is known of Antonio Beato's origins but he was probably born in Venetian territory after 1832, and later became a naturalized British citizen. His brother, at least, was born in Venice, but the family may have moved to Corfu, which had been a Venetian possession until 1814 when it was acquired by Britain.

Because of the existence of a number of photographs signed "Felice Antonio Beato" and "Felice A. Beato", it was long assumed that there was one photographer who somehow managed to photograph at the same time in places as distant as Egypt and Japan. But in 1983 it was shown by Italo Zannier (Bennett 1996, 38) that "Felice Antonio Beato" represented two brothers, Felice Beato and Antonio Beato, who sometimes worked together, sharing a signature. The confusion arising from the signatures continues to cause problems in identifying which of the two photographers was the creator of a given image.

Antonio often used the French version of his given name, going by Antoine Beato. It is presumed that he did so because he mainly worked in Egypt, which had a large French-speaking population.

In 1853 or 1854 Antonio's brother and James Robertson formed a photographic partnership called "Robertson & Beato". Antonio joined them on photographic expeditions to Malta in 1854 or 1856 and to Greece and Jerusalem in 1857. A number of the firm's photographs produced in the 1850s are signed "Robertson, Beato and Co." and it is believed that the "and Co." refers to Antonio.

In late 1854 or early 1855 James Robertson married the Beato brothers' sister, Leonilda Maria Matilda Beato. They had three daughters, Catherine Grace (born in 1856), Edith Marcon Vergence (born in 1859) and Helen Beatruc (born in 1861).

In July 1858 Antonio joined Felice in Calcutta. Felice had been in India since the beginning of the year photographing the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Antonio also photographed in India until December 1859 when he left Calcutta, probably for health reasons, and headed for Malta by way of Suez.

Antonio Beato went to Cairo in 1860 where he spent two years before moving to Luxor where he opened a photographic studio in 1862 and began producing tourist images of the people and architectural sites of the area. In the late 1860s, Beato was in partnership with Hippolyte Arnoux.

Interestingly, in 1864, at a time when his brother Felice was living and photographing in Japan, Antonio photographed members of Ikeda Nagaoki's Japanese mission who were visiting Egypt on their way to France.

Antonio Beato died in Luxor in 1906. His widow published a notice of his death while offering a house and equipment for sale.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ilse Bing

Ilse Bing

“I didn’t choose photography; it chose me. I didn’t know it at the time. An artist doesn’t think first then do it, he is driven.”

“I felt that the camera grew an extension of my eyes and moved with me.”

“When I was a little girl, children were looked upon as, “not yet”—something not yet perfect. I resented this approach toward me. But I was no fighter, and I retreated into my own world. This world was so colorful and so rich that I wanted never to become a grown-up.”


Ilse Bing's work is currently on exhibit  at the Delaware Art Museum
(2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, DE, 302-571-9590)
through September 15, 2013 

Ilse Bing's biography from the Victoria and Albert Museum:

Ilse Bing was born into a comfortable Jewish family in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, in 1899. As a child, her education was rich in music and art and her intellectual development was encouraged. In 1920 she enrolled at the University of Frankfurt for a degree in mathematics and physics, but soon changed to study History of Art.

In 1924 she started a doctorate on the Neo-Classical German architect Friedrich Gilly (1772–1808). Needing to illustrate her thesis, Bing bought a Voigtlander camera in 1928 and started to teach herself photography. The following year she bought a Leica, the new and revolutionary 35mm hand-held camera that had been commercially introduced just three years earlier and enabled photographers to capture fast-moving events.

In 1929, while still pursuing her studies, Bing started to gain photojournalism commissions for Das Illustriete Blatt, a monthly supplement of the illustrated magazine Frankfurter Illustriete. She continued to provide regular picture stories for the magazine until 1931.

At this time, Bing also started collaborating with the architect Mart Stam, a prominent modernist who taught at the Bauhaus school of design from 1928-9 and was appointed chief architect to 'Das Neue Frankfurt' (a major construction project) in 1929. Stam commissioned Bing to record all of his housing projects in Frankfurt. He also introduced her to Frankfurt's avant-garde artistic circles, in particular that of artist Ella Bergman-Michel and her husband Robert, great patrons of the arts who frequently hosted artists such as El Lissitzky, Kurt Schwitters, Jean Arp and Hannah Höch at their house.

With her artistic horizons expanding and finding some commercial success, Bing finally gave up her thesis in the summer of 1929 to concentrate on photography - a rather shocking decision for a woman of her background that astonished her family. The following year, greatly impressed by an exhibition of modern photography in Frankfurt, especially by the work of Paris-based Swiss photographer Florence Henri, Ilse Bing decided to move to Paris, the capital of the avant-garde and epicentre of developments in modern photography.

Ilse Bing arrived in Paris at the end of 1930 and initially found lodgings at the Hotel de Londres, rue Bonaparte, an address recommended by her friend Mart Stam. The Hungarian journalist Heinrich Guttman, who she had met through the publisher of the Frankfurter Illustriete, found her work and lent her his garage to use as a darkroom in exchange for illustrations for articles Guttman wrote for mainly German newspapers. Bing also provided illustrations for a book published by Guttman in 1930 on the history of photography.

For the first couple of years in Paris, Bing still published her work regularly with German newspapers, continuing her association with Das Illustriete Blat. Gradually, she also started to publish work in the leading French illustrated newspapers such as L'Illustration, Le Monde Illustré and Regards, and from about 1932, increasingly worked for fashion magazines Paris Vogue, Adam and Marchal, and from 1933-4, American Harpers Bazaar.

When on assignment, Bing would take extra pictures that satisfied her own artistic interests, and she built up a large body of work for exhibition. During a commission to photograph the Moulin Rouge, she made a series of photographs of dancers which were exhibited in the gallery window at the newly-established publishers La Pléiade in 1931. This was her first exhibition. Later that year, her photographs were included in the 26th Salon Internationale d'Art Photographique, organised by the Société francaise de photographie. They quickly caught the attention of the photographer and critic Emmanuel Sougez who praised the dynamism of the photographs and christened Bing 'the Queen of the Leica'. Sougez continued to be an important and influential supporter of her work throughout the 1930s.

In 1931 Bing moved to 146 avenue de Maine. That year she also met the New York-based Dutch American writer Hendrik Willem van Loon who became her most important patron and introduced her work to American clients. Most importantly, Van Loon showed Bing's work to the collector and gallerist Julien Lévy who included her work in the exhibition Modern European Photography: Twenty Photographers at his New York Gallery in 1932.

During the 1930s Bing also frequently exhibited in Parisian galleries, where her work was shown alongside that of Brassaï, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Florence Henri, Man Ray and André Kértesz.

In 1933 Bing moved to an apartment at 8 rue de Varenne, where she was able to use the kitchen as her darkroom. Here she met her future husband Konrad Wolff, a German pianist also living in the same block of flats whose music she would hear drifting up to her flat. The photographer Florence Henri, whose work Bing had first seen in Frankfurt, also lived at 8 rue de Varenne. However, despite clear links between her work and that of Henri and other photographers from the period, including Kértesz, Bing later claimed that she had little contact with other photographers during her Paris days.

In 1936 Ilse Bing was given a solo exhibition at the June Rhodes gallery in New York. Hosted by her patron Van Loon, she travelled to the USA, where she stayed for three months, during which time she made photographs in New York and Connecticut.

Bing was greatly impressed by New York. She appears to have been enthusiastically received, and her visit aroused some public interest. In an interview in the New York World Telegraph, June 8th 1936 entitled 'Famous German Woman sees life in New York as Transitory and Wild', Bing spoke of her excitement with the 'jazz rhythm' of New York, and by the newness of American cities as well as the wildness of American nature. She saw the New York skyline as a hybrid of the two, stating that, 'I did not find the New York skyline big like rocks. It is more natural than that, like crystals in the mountains, little things grown up.'

Tellingly, Bing asked to be described as a 'German Jew', explaining that her family was still in Germany and that she was worried for their safety.

During her stay, Bing met Alfred Stieglitz, doyen of the American photographic world and great exponent of modern photography. This meeting was, she later stated, a major event in her life and we can see the influence of Stieglitz's vision on Bing's photographs of New York.

Characteristically, Bing also absorbed the aesthetics of other contemporary American artists - some of whom she met through Stieglitz - and her street scenes show the influence of the realism current in American art at that time.

In 1937 Ilse Bing married Konrad Wolff (she maintained her maiden name for her photographic activities, but also assumed the name Ilse Bing Wolff). Although she took fewer photographs during the latter years of the 1930s, she continued to find inspiration in Paris and undertook commissions, including stories on the Glyndeborne opera that were published in 1938, for which she made her only documented trip to the UK. Bing continued to be ranked among the leading photographers of the time, with her work included in an important survey exhibition 'Photography 1839-1937' at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the accompanying publication by Beaumont Newhall.

In 1938 moved Bing and Wolff moved together to boulevard Jourdan, hoping to live a comfortable married existence in their new, elegant apartment. However, the photographs Bing made of the splendid views across Paristowards Sacré Coeur from the balcony of this apartment were some of her last in Paris. The outbreak of the Second World War changed everything. In 1940 Bing and Wolff were forced to leave Paris and, both Jews, were interned in separate camps in the South of France. Bing spent six weeks in a camp in Gurs, in the Pyrenees, before rejoining her husband in Marseille, which was under 'Vichy' control. The couple spent nine months there, awaiting visas for America. Eventually, with the support of the fashion editor of Harpers Bazaar, they were able to leave for America in June 1941.

Although Bing had managed to take her negatives with her and keep them with her in the camp, she left all her prints behind in Paris in the safekeeping of a friend. This friend then sent them on to Marseille but Bing and her husband had left France before the photographs arrived. The prints remained in a shipping company's warehouse in Marseille, miraculously missing the many bombs that fell on the port, until the end of the War, when they were despatched to Bing in New York. Tragically though, when they arrived, Bing was unable to pay customs duty on all of them, and had to sift through the prints, deciding which to keep and which to throw away. Some of her most important vintage prints, including the only photographs Bing had taken in England, were lost at this time.

After a decade of relative obscurity, Bing held her first one-person exhibition in 17 years at the Lee Witkin Gallery in New York in 1976, the show that marked a revival of interest in her work. In the late 1970s, photography's status within museums was being re-evaluated, and this coincided with a renewed interest in those photographers like Bing whose careers had been somewhat interrupted by the Second World War, as well as feminist art history's interest in giving the careers of women artists due prominence.

In 1976 the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired some of Bing's work. Her work was included in a touring exhibition, organised by the Art Institute of Chicago, about the art collection of Julien Levy. This collection, including a large number of Bing's prints, was eventually acquired by the Art Institute. From this point, Bing's work was exhibited more frequently in museums and commercial galleries and acquired by American and French museums. A major retrospective, 'Ilse Bing: Three Decades of Photography' was shown at the New Orleans Museum of Art in 1985 and then toured to the International Center of Photography in New York and the Kunstverein, Frankfurt in 1987. The Musée Carnavalet, Paris, followed in 1988 with a retrospective of Bing's photographs of Paris. This gradual growth of interest in Ilse Bing's work has re-established her reputation at the centre of the development of modern photography and ensured her a permanent place in the history of the medium.This text was originally written to accompany the exhibition The Ilse Bing: Queen of the Leica on display at the V&A South Kensington between 7 October 2004 and 9 January 2005.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

George Hurrell

George Hurrell

Ramon Navarro

Pancho Barnes

Dorothy Jordan

Greta Garbo

Jean Harlow

Carole Lombard

Billy Haines

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

Gypsy Rose Lee

Irene Homer

Dorothy Sebastian

Katherine Hepburn

Loretta Young

Paulette Goddard

 The Estate of George Hurrell owns the copyright to all photographs posted above.  I am most grateful to the Estate of George Hurrell and for allowing me to repost them here.

The George Hurrell Story from George Hurrell, Master of Hollywood Glamour Photography (Official web site of The George Hurrell Estate):

George Edward Hurrell was born on June 1, 1904 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  His father, Edward, was born there too, of English and Irish parents.  His paternal grandfather had come from Essex, England where the family had been successful shoe manufacturers for several centuries.  Hurrell’s mother, Anna Mary Eble was born in Germany, but had moved with her family to Cincinatti as a child.

Hurrell came from a large Catholic family and had four brothers and a sister.  His youngest brother, Randy, studied to become a priest, but quit the seminary about one month before taking his vows.  His sister, Elizabeth, went to a nunnery and almost took her vows but decided not to, eventually marrying and raising a family.  An alter boy during his youth, upon reflecting on what his own career path might be, a young George Hurrell initially signed up at the Quigley Seminary in Chicago to become a priest, but decided to go to art school instead. He said, “As long as I can remember I wanted to be an artist.  As a boy, I was drawing all the time, in school and out.  Art was my favorite class in high school.”  Following graduation from high school, that summer he enrolled at the Chicago Art Institute, and later took night school classes at the Academy of Fine Arts studying painting.

Hurrell became acquainted with the camera while in art school, because students typically photographed various indoor and outdoor scenes to use as reference while painting.  Also, serious art students made sure they had a ready inventory of photographic images that they wanted to paint, so that they could use these as reference during the cold winter months when it snowed.

Then, one spring day in 1925, while still attending the Art Institute, Hurrell heard that famed landscape painter, Edgar Alwyn Payne, an alum of the Art Institute, would be giving a lecture at the school.   Mr. Payne was passing through town on his way back home to his wife and family in Laguna Beach after having spent some time lecturing on the East Coast.  Hurrell attended the lecture, and afterwards Payne viewed the student’s work.  Payne was particularly impressed with Hurrells’ experimental painting style, and also liked a recently completed landscape painting.  Payne told him, “If you plan to be a serious artist, you should come back with me to Laguna Beach and paint.  This is where it is all happening.”  Since Hurrell wanted to be a fine artist, he eagerly accepted the opportunity.

Payne and Hurrell set out for Laguna Beach by car, arriving just in time for Hurrell to celebrate his 21st birthday on June 1, 1925.

Hurrell had brought with him from Chicago a second hand view camera so that he could photograph various potential scenes during the warm spring and summer months.  But of course, unlike Chicago, it never snowed in Laguna Beach, and so, at least initially, the camera stayed stored away in the closet at the hillside beach shack.  Hurrell quickly settled into the western life style, enjoying the Mediterranean climate, spending his time going to the beach, fishing, and, of course, painting.  He also managed to find time to experiment with his camera.

Hurrell, always very practical, had discovered soon after his arrival in the seaside community that taking pictures of local artists and the social scene paid much more readily than painting.  But he still continued to paint.

For Christmas dinner in 1925, Hurrell was the guest of the Payne family at the home of William A. Griffith, another prominent Laguna Beach plein air painter.  Payne was founder of the Laguna Beach Art Association and William A. Griffith was the President of the Association, and it was now time to introduce Hurrell to all the major artists in the community.  However, the most important person he met that evening was not a famous or influential painter, but a major character, three years his senior, by the name of Florence Leontine Lowe Barnes.

Florence was a large good-hearted woman with a big smile and hearty laugh.  She was extremely intelligent, could hold her own in any conversation with ‘the guys’ and shared Hurrell’s passion for fishing.  She also was a treasure trove for off-color jokes and witty observations.  She was all this and married to a prominent Pasadena Episcopal minister.  The two became fast friends.

Florence had money — big money – having been born into one of the wealthiest families in America.  In addition to her estate in Pasadena, Florence also owned a large estate on 40 acres along the cliffs in Laguna Beach.  There she installed the first fresh water swimming pool in Laguna Beach over looking the ocean.

George Hurrell was a frequent pool-side guest at her home in Laguna Beach, and they also found time to sneak off and get some fishing in. Whenever they went fishing, they had a bet going who would catch the biggest fish of the day. Florence always set the bet, “Whoever loses has to cook the fish.” Florence was quite competitive and she hated to cook, and so George’s cooking and barbecuing skills greatly improved and became legendary in the seaside community.

Florence loved to host parties at her home in Laguna Beach, and party she did. She had her friends over from Hollywood -- Ramon Novarro among them. In fact, Ramon Novarro was her best friend. At the time, Novarro was the most famous and the highest paid movie star in the world.

As her marriage to the Pasadena Episcopal minister was no longer working, Florence decided to take a trip alone to see the lost city of Machu Pichu in Peru and have time to herself so that she could “just think things through.” Unfortunately, the ship she impulsively boarded in San Pedro turned out to be a gun runner for Mexican revolutionaries. Although initially quite excited about the prospect of a new adventure, she reconsidered and decided to jump ship in San Blas, Mexico, and spent the next seven months roaming through Mexico. When she returned to Laguna Beach, she had a new nickname: Pancho. No longer Florence Leontine Barnes, she was now known as Pancho Barnes -- a name, by the way, she kept through three more marriages.

In 1928 Pancho decided that she wanted to learn how to fly an airplane. She had heard that Orville Wright (of the famous Wright Brothers) was the person who reviewed and signed all application requests. But Orville had a reputation for trying to discourage women to fly. He didn’t like woman driving cars either. Evidently, Orville was worried that if a woman crashed a plane, the publicity could harm the new aviation industry. Pancho did not like the prospect of rejection merely based on gender, so she decided to play a joke on Orville. Along with the written application -- which never inquired as to gender -- applicants had to submit a photo. The photo was later glued onto the license, if Orville signed off. Pancho remembered that her artist friend and painter, George Hurrell, owned a camera. She had seen some of his photos, and thought that his photographic skills were even more impressive than his painting talents. So she asked Hurrell to take her picture for her pilot’s application. For the application photo she dressed up like a man – smoking a cigarette, dirty fingernails and all!

Hurrell felt bad making his good friend Pancho appear so unkempt for the pilot’s license application, and so he insisted on taking some “proper” photos of her. He took several photos of her at her home in Laguna Beach, posed against the back of her favorite chair. He made her look beautiful. And she was not your classic beauty at all. Naturally, she loved them.

Orville signed the application and off she went. She soloed after just a few hours of instruction.

By the way, Pancho later went on to be the first female stunt pilot in Hollywood, Lockheed’s first female test pilot, founded one of the first unions in Hollywood, and set numerous speed records in her Travel Air Mystery Ship airplane whose engine was specially tuned by her best flying buddy and friend, Howard Hughes. Many historians have commented that Pancho was one of the most skilled pilots of the Golden Age of Flight -- regardless of gender. She later re-invented herself in the 1940’s and 1950’s as the owner and hostess of the famous Happy Bottom Riding Club, which was a dude ranch, restaurant and hotel on what is now the site of Edwards Air Force Base. Most people remember Pancho from the film and book, The Right Stuff. In that book and subsequent film of the same name, she was the owner of the restaurant/bar where all the pilots like Chuck Yeager hung out. She always thought that it would be Chuck Yeager who would break the sound barrier, and she was correct. In fact, the achievement was famously celebrated at the Happy Bottom Riding Club.

In 1929, Pancho’s best friend was Ramon Novarro -- who was the biggest movie star at MGM, and also the most famous silent movie star in the world. Novarro, who was of Mexican heritage, was worried that he might not make the transition to sound film because of his slight accent. However, he had a wonderful operatic voice, and so -- to hedge his bets -- he decided that he could always reinvent himself as an opera star in Europe. But he needed some publicity photos to accomplish this. The danger was that if word leaked back to MGM that he was nervous about his career, his new salary negotiations could be jeopardized. So, he could not use any of the usual Hollywood photographers in town -- or anywhere else for that matter.

Pancho had an idea. “Why not use her friend, George Hurrell, to take the photos!” At the time, Hurrell was totally unknown. Besides, Pancho loved the glamorous photos that Hurrell had taken of her, and secretly believed that his destiny was in photography. And so, at Pancho’s urging, Ramon Novarro had a series of photographs taken by George Hurrell.

Ramon Novarro was at this time best remembered for his starring role in the silent film Ben Hur, which was the ‘Star Wars’ of its day in terms of ticket sales.

In one of these photos, "New Orpheus", from 1929, Ramon Novarro is dressed as Parcivil, and is standing in contemplation of his sword, next to Pancho Barnes’ horse. When Pancho saw this photograph, she exclaimed: “If George Hurrell can make my horse look as beautiful as the most handsome man in America, then everyone should be using George Hurrell as their photographer.”

As it turned out, Ramon Novarro did quite well in his contract negotiations and remained at MGM. No opera career. However, Novarro showed the photos that Hurrell took of him to his best friend back at MGM who was having problems of a different sort. Her name was Norma Shearer, who was married to the head of production at MGM -- Irving Thalberg. Norma had recently read a script, called the "Divorcee", that had a part that she very much wanted to play. The role required her to be a sexy vamp -- a modern woman. But, up until this time, Norma Shearer was basically best known for her “all-American girl next door” image. So this role would greatly change her image, and also give her the opportunity to show others that she was a skilled actress, capable of playing several kinds of roles. However, when she showed the script to her husband, he replied “Honey, I don’t think this part is for you. You are not sexy in THAT way.” Well, that really got her upset hearing this from her husband.

Shortly after the ‘bad news’ message from her husband, Ramon Novarro visited Norma with the stack of photos that George Hurrell had taken of him. Looking at the "New Orpheus" photo Hurrell had taken of him she said, “Ramon, you are so sexy in this photo.” In continuing to look through the other photos Hurrell had taken she added, “I have never seen you photographed so beautifully.” Ramon replied, “Yes, Hurrell captured my mood exactly.” Well, she was sold. She decided to have some photos taken by Hurrell so that she could convince her husband that she WAS INDEED sexy in THAT way.

So she showed these photos her husband. He agreed. She was indeed sexy, in THAT way. Their marriage improved, she got the film role. By the way, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress as a result of her portrayal in that film.

It was early October 1929, and Hurrell was offered a job as portrait photographer at MGM. At first he hesitated, thinking that he’d play ‘hard to get.’ Also, he was an independent type person, and didn’t immediately warm to the idea of working for anyone -- even if it was MGM. But then in late October, the stock market crashed. People lost fortunes over night, and even stock brokers were jumping out of windows in desperation. It was the start of the Great Depression. Pancho encouraged her friend to take the job. She even offered to fly him up to Culver City to MGM’s employment office so he could sign his employment contract. Hurrell took her advice. Pancho flew him to his meeting, and on the flight back to Laguna Beach, Hurrell ‘wing walked’ on her plane in celebration.

George Hurell Biography from Wikipedia:

In the late 1920s, Hurrell was introduced to the actor Ramon Novarro, by Pancho Barnes, and agreed to take a series of photographs of him. Novarro was impressed with the results and showed them to the actress Norma Shearer, who was attempting to mould her wholesome image into something more glamorous and sophisticated in an attempt to land the title role in the movie The Divorcee. She asked Hurrell to photograph her in poses more provocative than her fans had seen before. After she showed these photographs to her husband, MGM production chief Irving Thalberg, Thalberg was so impressed that he signed Hurrell to a contract with MGM Studios, making him head of the portrait photography department. But in 1932, Hurrell left MGM after differences with their publicity head, and from then on until 1938 ran his own studio at 8706 Sunset Boulevard.

Throughout the decade, Hurrell photographed every star contracted to MGM, and his striking black-and-white images were used extensively in the marketing of these stars. Among the performers regularly photographed by him during these years were silent screen star Dorothy Jordan, as well as Myrna Loy, Robert Montgomery, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Rosalind Russell, Carole Lombard and Norma Shearer, who was said to have refused to allow herself to be photographed by anyone else. He also photographed Greta Garbo at a session to produce promotional material for the movie Romance. The session didn't go well and she never used him again.

In the early 1940s Hurrell moved to Warner Brothers Studios photographing, among others Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Alexis Smith, Maxine Fife, Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney. Later in the decade he moved to Columbia Pictures where his photographs were used to help the studio build the career of Rita Hayworth.

He left Hollywood briefly to make training films for the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces. When he returned to Hollywood in the mid-1950s his old style of glamour had fallen from favour. Where he had worked hard to create an idealised image of his subjects, the new style of glamour was more earthy and gritty, and for the first time in his career Hurrell was not seen as an innovator. He moved to New York where he worked for fashion magazines and photographed for advertisements before returning to Hollywood in the 1960s.

Hurrell died from his long standing problem with testicular cancer. When his doctors delivered the message to him that he had perhaps only a day left to live, he replied, "Well, at least my girlfriend will never have the pleasure of looking after these two danglers." He died on May 17, 1992.

Since his death, his works have appreciated in value.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Nickolas Muray

Nickolas Muray

"Marilyn Monroe"

"Langston Hughes"

"Babe Ruth"

"Gretta Garbo"

"Gloria Swanson"

"Doris Covarrubias"

"Doris Kenyon"

"Andres Segovia"

"Frida on Bench"

"Frida and Diego with Hat"

"Frida Painting 'The Two Fridas'"

"People Gathered Around Dodge in Showroom"

"Magician Revealing Costumed Girl Carried on a Shelf"

"McCall's Styles & Beauty Cover:  Shoes"

I am most grateful to Mimi Muray Levitt of the Nickolas Muray Archive for allowing me to
feature her father's work here on my blog.

The following biography is to be found on the Nickolas Muray Archive Web Site.  It is abridged and adapted from Salomon Grimberg's excellent book, "I Will Never Forget You", which tells of the friendship and love shared between Frida Kahlo and Nickolas Muray:

"Nickolas Muray was ‘a man for all seasons.’ When he emigrated from his native Hungary to the United States, at twenty-one years of age, he brought with him the belief he would make an indelible contribution. At the time of his death, he seems to have photographed everyone and everything, from presidents to pea soup. Most Americans were familiar with his photographs, if not their creator. Despite talent, personal charm, handsome looks, and boundless creative powers, he managed to live a self-effacing life. He was internationally renowned as a champion fencer; he was a pilot, and a lover of women. The most famous of his lovers was Mexican artist Frida Kahlo with whom he lived an affair that lasted ten years. During that time, he photographed her more than any other person outside his immediate family.

Nickolas Muray was born Miklos Mandl on Febuary 15, 1892 in Szeged, Hungary. Although his name appears in the Book of Birth Registration of the Jewish Community, he was not given a Jewish name. Two years later, his father Samu, who worked as a postal employee, moved the family to Budapest in search of better educational and economic opportunities. His parents favored Miklos over the other children, as he was the most intelligent and unusually handsome, with an engaging personality. Not only did he have a temper, but he was strong-willed, rebellious, and unwilling to accept ‘no’ for an answer. Repeatedly humiliated by rampant anti-Semitism, he resented being denied, for being Jewish, opportunities given other boys. He decided as a boy that he would one day see the world, and never be confined to the limitations imposed upon him by an unfair society.

In August of 1913, armed with $25, a fifty-word Esperanto dictionary, and an unrelenting determination, twenty-one-year-old Miklos Murai arrived at Ellis Island, where he became Nickolas Muray. He immediately found work in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, at Stockinger Printing Co, doing engraving and color separation. He signed up for English night classes, eager to leave behind any trace of his accent, and he proclaimed himself an atheist.

In 1920, a friend suggested Nick open his own studio. Nick moved to a 2-room apartment at 129 MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village, where he lived in one room and worked in the other. Forced to economize at first, Nick kept all the lights out, except for one bulb. When a client rang the doorbell, he would turn on all the lights. Fortunately, Nick did not have to wait long for his big break. The art director for Harper’s Bazaar commissioned Nick to photograph Florence Reed, who was starring on Broadway.

Overnight, his evocative, soft focus style of portrait photography became a sensation. He was soon photographing everybody that was anybody: actors, dancers, film stars, politicians, and writers. As he grew more successful, he held Wednesday night soirees in the studio for friends and acquaintances to meet, eat, and drink – many brought flasks, as it was prohibition time. It was not unusual for Martha Graham, Langston Hughes, Helen Hayes, Paul Robeson, Gertrude Vanderbilt, Eugene O’Neill, or even Jean Cocteau to make an appearance.

In 1923 Nick met artist Miguel Covarrubias, whose friendship would change Nick’s life. Nick and Miguel contributed to many of the same publications, and became the best of friends. Nick visited Miguel in his native Mexico in 1931. On that trip, Nick met Frida Kahlo, who was married to Diego Rivera. Nick and Frida’s first meeting was certainly serendipitous as Frida was supposed to have been with Diego in San Francisco.

Over the next ten years, Nick and Frida carried on a love affair in which they traveled to see one another in Mexico and New York. Their love affair is richly documented, both in their correspondence to one another, and by Nick’s iconic portraits of Frida. But despite their mutual passion, Nick eventually came to see that Frida would always stay true to Diego. He moved on with his life in New York, but a part of him would always be in love with Frida.

Following the stock market crash, Nick shifted his major focus to advertisement photography. In 1931 Nick pioneered the first illustration from a color photograph to be published in an American mass-publication magazine, a swimming pool advertisement in Ladies’ Home Journal featuring seventeen live models wear beach wear in Miami. Even charging $1,000 for a color page, he couldn’t fill the incoming orders fast enough. Soon he also had a contract with Time to do color covers for the magazine. In this period, Nick became one of the leading practicioners of color photography.

Throughout his life, Nick practiced fencing at the highest levels. Even while maintaining his place at the cutting edge of his profession, he found time to train and compete. He was the U.S. Saber Champion in 1928 and 29, and he represented the US in the 1928 and 1932 Olympics.

Nickolas Muray died while fencing in New York City, in 1965. At the time of his death, he had won over sixty fencing medals, and was hailed as “One of the twenty greatest fencers in American History." "

From January 24 through April 21, 2013, the Pera Museum in Istanbul, Turkey hosted "Nickolas Muray, Portrait of a Photographer", a retrospective of his work.  It was curated by Salomon Grimberg in collaboration with the Nickolas Muray Photo Archives and the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.

The following is from Mr. Muray's essay "On the Portrait" in the catalog.  It was originally published in John Wallace Gillies, "Principles of Pictorial Photography" (New York:  Falk Publishing Company, 1923), pp. 41-43:

On his use of a soft focus lens:

"I favor the soft focus lens because personally I am well satisfied in obtaining a pleasing, general effect as opposed to representing a subject in all its minutest detail. . . . I want my impression of people as seen through my own eyes at a reasonable distance and not through a magnifying glass.  Nor do I desire to see them through a haze.  Therefore, I don't strive for fuzziness of dimness in a picture.  The soft focus lens -- yes, but used intelligently."

On his use of short exposure times:

"With a short exposure a fleeting glance, a twinkly of the eye, or a momentary mood is caught and this tells us more of a sitter than ten or twenty seconds of concentrated staring and tense muscles.  With a short exposure one doesn't assume a natural expression; one has it in spite of oneself."

On his use of the retouching pencil:

"Modifying a negative to my mind is . . .absolutely essential when the camera gives me an overthrutful and erroneous representation of the subject."

Also in the catalog is Mr. Muray's essay "Photographing People in Color", which first appeared in "The Complete Photographer", no. 1.  June 20, 1943, pp. 63-67, copyright 1943, National Educational Alliance, Inc.  Mr. Muray wrote:

"Complementary colors, judiciously used, will enhance a color print. . . .Colors can express personality, and the colors your choose to emphasize should be in keeping with the personality before the camera."

"Perhaps it will help to consider every picture as consisting of two main parts:  subject matter and background.  These are almost equally important, particularly in color photography."